I’m well aware of the love God has for us. For me. For you. It’s been drilled into my brain since I was a child growing up in church, Christian school, and even into Bible college. And even now as an almost 40-something year old adult (yikes, I’m old!), I still am very keen on the fact that God loves me…..
If God can love us, as sinful and imperfect as we are, why can’t we love other people in the same capacity?
Yes, I understand that there are going to be people that we cannot show love towards.
To the man who raped me 17 years ago, I have no love towards this individual.
To the murderers who take a life or the abortion doctors who steal away the breath of an innocent child, I have no love towards.
To the pedophiles who defile the children who place their trust in them, I have nothing but hatred towards.
And maybe, according to my Christian upbringing, I’m supposed to show those individuals love as well. But that’s not something I will ever be able to change in my heart, no matter how you try to persuade me otherwise.
But, despite my childhood lessons and despite the constant barrage of Biblical teachings, I have a difficult time justifying the hatred that I see coming from so many so called “Christians” towards others.
Now, before you get all up in my face and attack me, let me give you some background.
I was brought up in a very religious background. I was an Independent Fundamental Baptist. Very strict in many aspects. We weren’t allowed to go to the movies, listen to secular music, wearing pants was frowned upon, no premarital touching/relations, total submission to men, no tattoos, no drinking alcohol in any form. In high school I got my ears double pierced and got in trouble for wearing two pairs of earrings. Oh, the horrors!
I was brought up in a religion that declared every other religion was wrong and that the ONLY way to get to God and be saved was through that religion. We were taught to look down on people that were not like us and to cut ties with those that weren’t walking in line with our beliefs and were not in a personal relationship with God. Now, while I understand that many religions teach that THEIR religion is superior and it was the only way to God, I DON’T believe that you have to show hatred and disgust towards those who believe otherwise. Unfortunately, this was taught to us at a very early age, and repeatedly beat into our brains that we must maintain that mindset.
As I’ve grown older, moved on, been on my own, and allowed myself to take a step back and evaluate everything that I was taught, I’ve come to a startling conclusion.
God is a God of LOVE and not HATE. God would not choose for me to hate anyone, despite everything I was taught.
MIND BLOWN! <insert sarcasm>
Here’s what I’ve learned:
It’s not about a particular RELIGION or denomination. It’s about a RELATIONSHIP with God.
It’s not about a list of rules that I have to follow or a smattering of things I can’t partake in. It’s about my own personal convictions and beliefs.
It’s not about looking down on others or judging them for how they approach God. It’s about accepting people for who they are and letting GOD be the judge of their actions and beliefs.
It’s not about breaking ties with and avoiding those that believe opposite than me. It’s about creating relationships with those people so that we can learn from each other.
It’s not about degrading and spewing hatred towards unbelievers or those you deem to be “out of the will of God.” It’s about showing the love of God REGARDLESS of where they are in life.
Here’s some other things that I’ve learned and reminded myself from memorizing scripture growing up that would refute how Christians act inappropriately today:
1 John 4:8-10 (The Message)
“My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.”
Matthew 7:1-2 (Amplified Bible)
“Do not judge and criticize and condemn others, so that you may not be judged and criticized and condemned yourselves. For just as you judge and criticize and condemn others, you will be judged and criticized and condemned, and in accordance with the measure you [use to] deal out to others, it will be dealt out again to you.”
And perhaps the most “damning of the passages:
Romans 14:1-23 (The Message)
“Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently. For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help. Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience. What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other. So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:
“As I live and breathe,” God says,
“every knee will bow before me;
Every tongue will tell the honest truth
that I and only I am God.”
So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God. Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it. If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don’t eat, you’re no longer a companion with them in love, are you? These, remember, are persons for whom Christ died. Would you risk sending them to hell over an item in their diet? Don’t you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul-poisoning!
God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you. So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault. You’re certainly not going to permit an argument over what is served or not served at supper to wreck God’s work among you, are you? I said it before and I’ll say it again: All food is good, but it can turn bad if you use it badly, if you use it to trip others up and send them sprawling. When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don’t eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love.
Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you’re out of line. If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.”
So what it boils down to in life is this:
Love others, despite their beliefs, convictions, lifestyle, choices, religion.
Do not judge others for what they believe to be best for themselves.
Accept others, no matter what their differences are.
Be a friend to those that think and act differently, because they are a human needing affection, just like you.
Do not look down, or demean, or degrade those you look or believe differently than you do.
I am NOT the judge of you. I am not going to hate you because you believe something different. And I sure as heck am not going to demean you because you sin differently than I do. I have NO place to pass judgment on ANYONE as I myself am not blameless. I am not perfect, and neither are you. NO ONE is, save God.
Now, my inner beliefs and convictions and thoughts might be radically changed based on my upbringing. But at the end of the day, those beliefs and convictions are what I have to answer for. Not my parents, not my family, not my pastor, not my boyfriend, not my kids, no one on this earth. GOD is my judge, and He is the one that I’m going to answer to some day. I’m not going to be spiritually bullied by someone who believes the way they do and looks down on others who aren’t the same. I’m not going to let an apparent “cutting of ties” deflect my heart from the TRUE meaning of Christianity.
The word “CHRISTIAN” is defined as “A Follower of Christ.” It’s definition is not one who passes judgment on others. It is a person who FOLLOWS the teachings of Christ. So basically, the main tenants of Christ’s teachings are as follows:
Micah 6:8 (The Message)
“But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.”
Matthew 22:37-40 (The Message)
“Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”
Maybe I don’t agree with what you do or how you live your life……That’s not my judgment call to make.
Maybe I don’t see God the same way you do (or don’t)……Those are not my beliefs to account for.
Maybe we aren’t going to come to the same conclusion on spirituality or life…..That’s ultimately out of my control and not my “problem.”
What I will choose to do is LOVE. Despite all the costs. Despite all the naysayers and those that would choose to neglect, judge, and demean. I will choose LOVE.
And I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m going to fail. I’m going to falter in my endeavors. I mean, remember, I’m not perfect! But I can take reassurance in this. God loved and loves me still, despite my shortcomings, failures, sin, and neglect. You don’t need my approval or permission to live your life the way you choose and vice versa. You and I are going to have to give account of our actions and our actions alone. And knowing that and truly believing that leaves me with an overwhelming feeling of peace and relief.
And in that moment of sweet, sweet peace, I will choose to LOVE.